Tag: Elmire Conklin

The Infamous Voyage of the George and Anne

On May 20, 1729, the George and Anne set sail from Dublin, Ireland for New Castle, Delaware, taking 180 immigrants to their new lives in colonial America.1 More than four months later, the survivors of that terrible voyage disembarked on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, several hundred miles from their intended destination. Some 80 passengers, many of them children, had died at sea.

Among the passengers were several members of the Thompson family, possibly including my seven-times great-grandfather James Thompson.2

The George and Anne was a chartered vessel. Many of the passengers were friends and neighbours of a man named Charles Clinton,3 of County Longford, Leinster Province, Ireland, who organized the trip. Many were members of Corboy Presbyterian Church near Edgeworthstown, County Longford.  

Clinton’s diary noted the first hint of trouble came on the night of June 1 when a strong wind “loosened our bowsprit with hazard of our masts. June ye 2d we had a fair breeze on our westerly course, on the 3rdditto” Then, he reported, his daughter and his son “fell sick of the measles.”4

On June 5, a child died, and a second child died three days later. As the deaths continued over the following weeks, Clinton recorded them, but it is hard to determine exactly how many there were since he appears to have repeated some of the names. Clinton himself lost a son and a daughter, 12 members of the MacDowell family died, and James Thompson lost his wife and three children. Clinton did not note the causes; measles could have been a factor, while poor sanitation, lack of food and overcrowding no doubt led to disease. The desperation most people on board the vessel must have felt led directly to one death as a servant accompanying one of the passengers threw himself overboard and drowned. Several accounts of the voyage written by other families accuse the captain of trying to starve the passengers to death so he could steal their money. 

In July, Clinton reported, gale-force winds from the northwest blew the ship far off course and, for a short time, it was becalmed off the north coast of Africa. Clinton did not say whether this was bad luck or poor navigation on the part of the captain. 

When America finally came into view, it was October 4. Accounts of what happened next vary. One says the passengers had to pay a ransom to the captain before he would allow them to leave the ship, another says the passengers seized the captain and a crew member brought the ship to shore.5

The surviving passengers spent the winter on Cape Cod. They had originally intended to settle near Philadelphia, but instead some bought land a few miles west of the Hudson River, north of New York City. There they founded a community they called Little Britain in Ulster County. Today, some of their descendants still live in this area, now part of Orange County, New York. 

There is some confusion about the identities of the Thompson family members on the voyage.  Orange County genealogy researcher Elmire L. Conklin wrote, “The Charles Clinton diary listed James, Mary and William [Thompson] for a passage of four. The fourth passage was probably for the children of James [Jr.] and Mary, three of whom died on the voyage.”6

Most Thompson family historians have assumed that the William Thompson mentioned was the husband of Ann Jenkins. But Mrs. Conklin suggested this is incorrect. She suggested that the William Thompson mentioned in the diary was actually the brother of James Thompson Sr., who was also with the Clinton party, and that William Thompson and Ann Jenkins (my six-times great-grandparents) came to America later.7

Ann gave birth to daughter Sarah in February, 1729 so perhaps the family remained in Ireland that year rather than risk travelling with an infant. Also, the minister of their church gave them a reference letter to use in America, dated August 1737.8 It is more likely that they brought this letter with them than that they acquired it eight years after their arrival. If in fact they came to America on a ship other than the George and Anne, they made a lucky choice.

See also:

Janice Hamilton, “The Thompsons: from Scotland to Ireland and America,” Writing Up the Ancestors,  https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2015/11/the-thompsons-from-scotland-to-ireland.html


  1. Jeffrey Clinton, “George and Anne Ship 1729 Passengers.” Genealogy.com,   http://www.genealogy.com/forum/regional/countries/topics/ireland/17044/, posted July 5, 2000. List transcribed from Orange County Genealogical Society, vol. 3 no 4 (Feb. 1974), copied by Elizabeth S. Smith. 
  2. Elmire L. Conklin, “The Two George Thompsons of Early Orange County, N.Y.,” Orange County Genealogical Society, vol. 21 no. 1 (May 1991), 9; Thompson vertical files. Orange County Genealogical Society, Goshen N.Y.
  3. Charles Clinton (1690-1773), was of English descent but was born in Ireland where his grandfather, a military officer, had been given land. One Thompson source says he was a cousin of the Thompsons, but I have not confirmed that. Once settled in New York, Clinton became a farmer, justice of the peace and militia colonel. He was the father of George Clinton, who served as Vice President of the United States from 1804 to 1812, and grandfather of DeWitt Clinton, a New York politician who was instrumental in the construction of the Erie Canal. Leslie Stephen, editor. Dictionary of National Biography, vol. XI, New York: MacMillan & Co., 1887, 91. https://books.google.ca, accessed Nov. 21, 2015. 
  4. Thomas J. Barron, “Presbyterian Exodus, Co. Longford, 1729,” http://www.from-ireland.net/presbyterian-exodus-1729-longford/; article originally appeared in Breifne, no. 18 (1977-78), 253; accessed Nov. 6, 2015.
  5. Fergus D. H. MacDowall and William L. MacDougall. The MacDowalls, Clan MacDougall Society of North America Inc., 2009, 60; https://books.google.ca, accessed Nov. 21, 2015.
  6. Conklin, “The Two George Thompsons of Early Orange County, N.Y.”
  7. Ibid.
  8. “Thompson Genealogy (also Hudson and Duryea)” Orange County Genealogical Society, vol. 8 no. 4 (Feb. 1979), 30. Thompson vertical files. Orange County Genealogical Society, Goshen N.Y.

A Confirmed Connection: the Thompson Family of Goshen, N.Y. and Sophiasburgh, Ontario

Often a death certificate provides important evidence about someone’s life. Such is the case for Hiram Thompson, the brother of my three-times great-grandmother Elizabeth (Thompson) Rixon.  Hiram’s death certificate shows he died on May 30, 1882, age 82, in Sophiasburgh, Prince Edward County, Ontario.1 But it wasn’t his death date I was interested in, it was his birthplace. This document states he was born in Goshen, Orange County, New York. Finally, this was the direct evidence I needed to prove that the Thompson family of Sophiasburgh, Prince Edward County2 had originally come from Goshen.3

From previous research, I knew my ancestor Elizabeth (Betsey) Thompson had been born in Sophiasburgh around 1804, but I did not know who her family was. Several Public Member Trees posted on Ancestry.com claimed her parents were John Thompson and Catherine Bennett, originally from Goshen, but there was no proof. 

The week before I found Hiram’s death certificate, I visited the Orange County Genealogical Society (OCGS) in Goshen and met with genealogist Elmire L. Conklin, who has done extensive research on the Thompsons. Several individuals named John Thompson lived in Orange County at the end of the 18th century, and one of the questions Mrs. Conklin had looked at was, which one had emigrated? 

At the OCGS research library, I focused on the John Thompson (1766-1851) who married Catherine Bennett.4  According to old family records, John Thompson was born Wednesday, Nov. 26, 1766, at 10 p.m., the fourth son of George Thompson and Elizabeth Wells, and married Catherine (Kate) Bennett, of Piersons.5  I have not yet confirmed Kate’s birth or death dates, nor have I found an official record of their marriage or any other information about her family. 

John’s father, George Thompson, was a farmer living near Goshen, about 100 km (60 miles) north of New York City. George died in 17826 with no known will. 7 John was just 16 at the time of his father’s death. As a younger son in a large farming family, John may have had to struggle to support his own family. Mrs. Conklin discovered indenture records showing that he and Catherine bought a piece of land near Goshen from Augustus Griffin for 200 pounds in 1796. Two years later, they sold the same land for 40 pounds less than they had paid for it.8

Perhaps John and Catherine decided to go north hoping to find inexpensive land. Several family sources say he went to Canada because he was a Tory (a Loyalist). He was a teen during the American Revolution and did not come to Canada until 17 years after the war ended. The family most likely left Goshen in 1800, a year after their son Hiram was born,9 and family stories say they first went to Adolphustown, Upper Canada, a community founded by United Empire Loyalists.

After they moved, John and Catherine probably lost touch with their Thompson relatives in Goshen. Although the date and time of John’s birth was carefully noted in family records, there was no mention of his death. Perhaps they did write once, but if that letter ever existed, it has disappeared. In 1980, a descendant wrote, “I phoned a cousin, Mrs. Marjorie Carter at Goshen, N.Y. (a descendant of William and Submit (Hudson) Thompson) today. She has given us a great deal of material and did have, but loaned it, a letter from some of the Thompsons at Big Isle.” 10

Another statement that the family went to Canada comes from an extensive genealogy written in 1905 by Ella Bush Thompson. She said, “John m. Kate Bennett of Piersons; he was a Tory, removed to Big Island, Canada, where his descendants have ever lived.” 11

A photocopy of her handwritten manuscript came to the attention of Goshen genealogist Mrs. Conklin around 1980. At that time, various descendants in the U.S. and Canada were researching the Thompson family. Mrs. Conklin, whose husband was a Thompson descendant, became an expert on the Thompsons. She studied land deeds and other records, trying to sort out the multiple 18th century Orange County residents named William, George and John Thompson.  When she first started doing her research, Mrs. Conklin was not sure which John Thompson had emigrated. In 1990, she wrote that the only evidence that John and Kate had gone to Canada was Ella Bush Thompson’s manuscript, written 100 years after the fact.11

Mrs. Conklin eventually got hold of a genealogy of the Sophiasburgh Thompson family that had been compiled by Loral Wanamaker, one of the founders of the Bay of Quinte Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society. Wanamaker stated that both John and Catherine were buried in Big Island Cemetery, Sophiasburgh, alongside sons Hiram and Maurice and daughter Phebe.12

He listed John’s children: Keziah (1795-1867), William Maurice (1797-1856), Hiram (1799-1882), Mary Ann (1800-1877), Elizabeth (c.1804-1872), Phebe (1809-1882) and Rhoda (c.1813- ).13  He also listed grandchildren, several of whom had Bennett as a middle name, including Catherine Bennett Potter (born 1830), James Bennett Thompson (born 1830) and James Bennett Huff (born 1858).14

When I met with Mrs. Conklin in Goshen in September, 2015, she had put aside her earlier hesitation about which Thompson had left Goshen. She assured me that the John Thompson who married Kate Bennett was the emigrant, and therefore my ancestor. She found no evidence of another John Thompson leaving Goshen, and the clues pointing to this John Thompson are overwhelming.

revised Dec. 29 2016 to add reference to Adolphustown

See also: 

Janice Hamilton, “A Visit to Goshen,” Writing Up the Ancestors, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2015/09/a-visit-to-goshen.html

Janice Hamilton, “Looking for the Thompsons of Goshen and Sophiasburgh,” Writing Up the Ancestors, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2015/05/looking-for-thompsons-of-sophiasburgh.html


  1. “Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JDBB-PPL : accessed 26 October 2015), Hiram Thompson, 30 May 1882; citing Sophiasburg, Prince Edward, Ontario, yr 1882 cn 15486, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,853,237. A photo of Hiram’s grave can be found at http://geneofun.on.ca/names/photo/1896100. Canada Gen Web’s Cemetery Project. Ontario. Big Island Cemetery, http://geneofun.on.ca/cems/ON/ONPRI13624?PHPSESSID=e5109299debcc11ec9f08ab87902da7a
    (accessed Oct. 23, 2015).
    The early years of settlement of Upper Canada are difficult to research since no vital records were kept until 1869. All of Hiram’s brothers and sisters had either died before that or were born after the move to Canada, and the census gave the country of birth, not the exact place. 
  2. Prince Edward County is located in the Bay of Quinte area on the shores of Lake Ontario, not far from Belleville. It should not be confused with Prince Edward Island, one of Canada’s Maritime Provinces. Sophiasburgh was a township on Big Island.
  3. I have tried to observe Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) in this article. Most of the evidence at my disposal has been indirect, derivative and/or secondary. The first step of GPS is a reasonably exhaustive search of the information. I visited the Orange County Genealogical Society research library in Goshen for half a day and spent several hours copying the files that genealogist Elmire Conklin made available to me. I came home with a huge amount of information, but it was Mrs. Conklin who did the exhaustive research over many years.
  4. Charles B. Thompson, “1500-1990. The Ancestors and Descendants of William Thompson; the Thompsons of Goshen and Georgia,“ undated; Orange County Genealogical Society, Goshen, N.Y..  
  5. “Thompson Genealogy (also Hudson and Duryea)” Orange County Genealogical Society, vol. 8 no. 4 (Feb. 1979), 30. Thompson vertical files. Orange County Genealogical Society, Goshen N.Y. This list of Thompson births, marriages and deaths published in the OCGS newsletter is a transcription of several pages of genealogy found at the back of a mineralogy note book belonging to Walter L. Thompson, Craigville, N.Y., 1864.
    Elmire Conklin noted that another descendant obtained a copy of a handwritten genealogy that appeared to have been copied by George Thompson Jr. from his father’s Bible, and she added that it verified the records in Walter L. Thompson’s little black book. Elmire L. Conklin, “Summary of Thompson Family Problems,” 1990, p. 1; Thompson vertical files, Orange County Genealogical Society, Goshen N.Y. 
  6. Charles B. Thompson.
  7. Elmire L. Conklin. “The Two George Thompsons of Early Orange County, N.Y.,” Orange County Genealogical Society, vol. 21 no. 1 (May 1991), p. 9; Thompson vertical files. Orange County Genealogical Society, Goshen N.Y.
  8. Conklin, “Summary of Thompson Family Problems,” p. 4. 
  9. Canadian genealogist Loral Wanamaker noted that, according to a Thompson family record in possession of Faye Mole of Illinois and copied by her 6/2/1978, Aunt Euphemia Thompson said, “John Thompson married Catherine Bennett and they moved from New York State to Adolphustown, U.C. when their son Hiram was one year old.” C. Loral R. Wanamaker, “John Thompson to Upper Canada circa 1800. Settled first Sophiasburgh twp. Later family Lot #72 – 3 Concession in Township of Ameliasburgh, Prince Edward County, Ontario,” p. 15, 1981; private collection of Elmire L. Conklin.
  10. Gertrude Gray, Wurtsboro, N.Y., to Sallie Brockman, Silver Spring, MD, Dec. 3, 1980, in Wanamaker, p. C.
  11. Ella Bush Thompson, “Family Records and Genealogy of Alexander Thompson I ….,” p. 14, photocopy of manuscript; Thompson vertical files, Orange County Genealogical Society, Goshen, N.Y. Ella Bush Thompson, who is descended from another family line, interviewed several family sources, and she was aware of the pitfalls of documenting a family that did not keep good records. In her introduction she wrote, “The records have been collected from the most authentic sources in my day, but as many of the families had neglected to keep their records carefully, they are imperfect. Throughout the records, I shall endeavor to distinguish between positive knowledge and that which is traditional and uncertain.” Ella Bush Thompson, p. 2.
  12. Wanamaker, p. 2. Although John and Catherine’s gravestones cannot be identified now, in the early 1980s Wanamaker stated John Thompson, was buried in Big Island Cemetery: “Memorial stone Big Island Cemetery – a stone to – John Thompson, 1777-1851. Other records his wife Catherine Bennett.” 
  13. Ibid.
    Wanamaker listed all of John’s and Catherine’s sons and daughters, their spouses and the grandchildren. He also transcribed the 1879 will of Phebe Bennett Thompson. Phebe, who was unmarried, ran a grocery store near Sophiasburgh. She left bequests to several nieces and nephews, and the mention of these names helps tie the family together. Wanamaker, p. 25A.
  14. Wanamaker, p. 4, 15, 16.